From Authoritarianism to Sustainable Democratic Constitutionalism Challenges for Thailand


Over eight decades ago, Thailand embarked on a historic journey towards democratic transformation from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy. In order to thwart any bloodshed, His Majesty King Prajadhipok (Rama VII) agreed to the abolition of absolute monarchy and the transfer of power to the constitution-based system of government by signing a temporary constitution on 27 June 1932. This constitution marked the arrival of Thailand’s modern democratic constitutionalism – the idea that government can and should be legally limited in its powers. Since then, Thailand has gone through a vicious cycle of 12 successful and 9 unsuccessful coups and followed by 20 constitutions and numerous revolving door governments. From the mid-2000s onwards, Thailand has persistently experienced deep political polarisation culminating in two recent military coups in 2006 and 2014, which overthrew or thwarted democratically elected governments. In view of the long turbulent history of Thailand’s constitutionalism, the author suggests that there is an urgent need for major constitutional reform, which is designed to pave the way for Thailand’s transition from authoritarianism to sustainable democratic constitutionalism and the Rule of Law by devolving centralised powers to the grassroots people at the regional and local level.